1. It can't be verified.
A false or misleading news article may or may not have links in it tracing its sources; if it does, these links may not lead to articles outside of the site's domain or may not contain information pertinent to the article topic.
2. It appeals to emotion.
Deliberately misleading news plays on your emotions, it can make you angry or happy or scared. Writers of 'fake' news know that articles that appeal to extreme emotion are more likely to get clicks. If an article makes you really angry or super sad, check those facts!
3. Authors usually are not experts.
Sometimes they are not even journalists, often they are employees paid to write click-bait. Check the author's credentials by running their name through a search engine to see where else and what else they have written.
4. The claims cannot be easily found elsewhere.
If you look up the main idea of the news article in a search engine you may not be able to find it covered in any reputable news sources.
5. Is the site legit?
Did your article come from abcnews.com.co? Or mercola.com? Realnewsrightnow.com? These and a host of others regularly post false or misleading information.
There are four broad categories of misleading news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.
CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.
CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information
CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions
CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news
No single topic falls under a single category - for example, false or misleading medical news may be entirely fabricated (Category 1), may intentionally misinterpret facts or misrepresent data (Category 2), may be accurate or partially accurate but use an alarmist title to get your attention (Category 3) or may be a critique on modern medical practice (Category 4.) Some articles fall under more than one category. Assessing the quality of the content is crucial to understanding whether what you are viewing is true or not. It is up to you to do the legwork to make sure your information is good.
Deepfakes are videos created using artificial intelligence technology, to create something that never happened using either the audio or video imagery. While some are created purely for satirical reasons, deepfakes are very often passed on as real videos and begin to rapidly circulate false information across the internet. Deepfakes have been commonly used to spread fake political news.
See links below for more information and examples on deepfakes.
Why should you care about whether or not your news is real or fake?
This guide is based on the Fake News guide from Indiana University East Campus Library.
Please feel free to share this guide with others. If you are a librarian, you are welcome to use this guide and its contents for your own purposes.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.